The cat that got the cream…

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Well, today I got the news that Delivery (also known as the ‘secret script’ on my Projects page) has not progressed to the next stage of the competition it was entered into. That’s a little saddening, I’ll admit, but not a problem; it also means I can now tell you more about it at some point. And, as if to make up for it, today I got to experience something I never had before – Lady Dinah’s cat café. If you don’t mind, I’m going to deviate from writing for a bit to tell you about my morning there.

Catpuccino!

Lady Dinah’s, in London, is a different sort of café to what you might be used to. It is a café, yes, but it’s also home to ten cats who are free to roam wherever, and make friends with whoever, they want to (as long as they keep out of the kitchens and don’t harass the kitchen staff). There are a few rules for guests, particularly ‘don’t pick up the cats’, ‘let sleeping cats lie’, ‘no flash photography’, ‘don’t chase the cats’, and ‘for the love of cake, do not feed the cats’. During our hour-and-a-half sojourn there earlier, these were largely obeyed by the patrons downstairs in the cosy basement portion of the café, and the benefits are obvious; the cats are so relaxed it’s hard to believe they’re surrounded by strangers, and often potter past for a stroke or a play with the various toys and brushes scattered around.

Each cat is quite a character – we met Artemis, who constantly looks as if she’s in the middle of a photoshoot for Cat Vogue, Wookie, who tried to be curling himself into an ever-smaller space on a spacious and otherwise deserted windowsill, and Mue, Artemis’ mum, who seemed mostly to have come down to make sure the younger cats were behaving. We also got to see Donnie demonstrate the true chain of command in the café as he commandeered a member of staff to carry him around on her back, and spotted Carbonelle trying to snaffle some crumbs off an empty table (thwarted just in time by the waitress already en route to clear it). There are a few other residents who we didn’t meet – I caught sight of Adamska inside the same play tunnel upstairs on the way in and out – and we could learn a little about each of them, too, thanks to the handy portraits with information about each cat which were mounted around the café.

The setting is lovely – I prefer downstairs, personally, probably because there are lovely bookshelves full of things humans and cats alike can enjoy (books for us, ladders, beds and passageways for them) and it put me in mind of an old bookshop I used to frequent in my hometown – and the cats are obviously very happy. The staff were friendly and happy to chat, and despite the occasional delay in service due to a cat’s demands, the feline residents were clearly the priority. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope to return soon and perhaps get some writing done in the peaceful environment.

As well as being a nice little sanctuary and providing excellent food and drinks – the sticky toffee cupcakes are to die for – the place is surprisingly good value for money. I’d expected the prices to hike up because of the costs of caring for the cats, but that’s not the case at all – there’s a cover charge of £5 to get in for about 90 minutes, which is a ‘welfare charge’ to cover those costs, and which is very reasonable as it also keeps numbers down in the small premises, helping the cats relax. Cats who show discomfort with the café environment are found alternative homes where they’re happy – one of Lady Dinah’s stars, Indiana, found a new home just a few days ago and is happier as a sole feline. The rest of the gang seem very content as a colony, which is really important in a place like this.

I don’t usually review potential writing spots, especially since I know many of those reading this aren’t local to my haunts, but if you ever find yourself in London (writing or not) and like cats, it’s well worth a visit as – much as my writerly side hates to admit it – I really can’t convey the full beauty of the place in words.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back to writing-related posts (probably) but for today, I’m going to sit here and grin at the memories of my morning.

Hot chococat - with marshmallow hat!

Pictures by Laura Costello.
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